In soccer, January can be a tiresome time for those genuinely interested in the sport.
There’s no shortage of games, but the endless gossip generated by the opening of the transfer window can be a pain, especially as so many of the stories are planted by players’ agents.
It’s something we are mercifully free from in GAA – leading to a better quality of journalism, in my biased opinion – and, while rugby is professional, there isn’t a huge amount of tittle-tattle.
However, the recent announcement of Ben Healy’s impending move from Munster to Edinburgh brought the kind of ‘analysis’ that made us glad that the real business of the Heineken Champions Cup is on the horizon again.
Essentially, the charge against Munster was that it was a disgrace that such a talent was being allowed to leave, despite the fact that Joey Carbery and Jack Crowley are ahead of him as out-half options.
One article last weekend noted how far down the depth chart Healy would be at any of the other four Irish provinces and that, as someone qualified to play for Scotland, his Edinburgh move might lead to international recognition.
That very same article still made the case that he should have stayed at Munster.
The bottom line is that nobody knows what is around the corner, and players and clubs must make decisions based on the information available at the time.
If Healy were to have a stormer on Saturday against Northampton Saints, there may be more clamour, but any Munster fan would just be happy with the positive outcome.
Victory for Graham Rowntree’s side would pretty much secure a last-16 spot but, after two defeats prior to Christmas, Ulster need to produce something good against La Rochelle.
After a 57-0 win over Gloucester last time out, Leinster will be expected to win again in England and their progression was never really in doubt anyway.
With two wins from two in the Challenge Cup, Connacht are in a strong position and another triumph, at home to Brive, will set them up nicely for the knockout stages, when the sides ‘relegated’ from the Champions Cup become sharks in the fishtank.
It’s all bubbling up nicely.
While Paudie Palmer was born a Kerryman – he was a native of Templenoe – by the time of his premature death he had become an honorary Corkman.
Following a road traffic accident on December 29, Paudie sadly died at Cork University Hospital in the early hours of last Sunday.
A schoolteacher by trade – he spent much of his career at St Brogan’s College in Bandon and set up home with his wife Colette in nearby Innishannon – it was as a GAA commentator on local radio station C103 that his legend began to spread far and wide.
A gift for phrase-turning and flowery yet accurate description made Paudie unique. He was a rogue but never nasty with it and, while he was capable of giving a clear assessment of what was happening on the pitch, he never put the boot in on those who were under-performing.
Templenoe’s recent success brought a lot of joy to Paudie, while his adopted club Valley Rovers in Cork took up a fair share of his sporting heart, too.
He commentated on a few of Valleys’ county championship wins in the 2000s and one game, a 2009 intermediate football semi-final against Glanmire, captured his sense of mischief and humour perfectly.
Coming towards the end of the game, Valley Rovers led narrowly and were holding on to possession to run down the clock.
Having coached many of the players involved at underage level, Paudie was perfectly placed to give an insight as to who had the ball.
“Here’s Hughie O’Donovan, he’s been awesome tonight,” he said.
“On to Kevin Canty and he’s awesome most nights. And now the ball is with [name removed to protect identity] and, well, he just thinks he’s awesome.”
As he said in 2015: “It’s a hobby for me. I don’t see it as a job. I don’t take it that seriously in that I go to the games and commentate on what I see rather than doing reams of preparation.
“I depend on describing what happens. I’m conscious that people listening want to hear something colourful, so I’d add something in the odd time. I think we’re entertaining people as well as simply passing on information.
“Gaelic football and hurling are simple enough games and I think one or two comments liven things up. One or two will do, though.”
Having sometimes shared a press box with Paudie for a match that wasn’t ranking high in the entertainment stakes, I wished that I was at home listening to him instead as he was able to make it sound far better.
Away from the microphone, he was personable and kind, curious to know more about anybody he came into contact with. His generosity of spirit provided guidance and assistance to so many and he will be sorely missed.
Paudie is survived by his wife Colette, daughters Claire and Emily, grandson Lucas Pádraig and brothers Denis, John and Richie.
Just before Christmas, as part of work for an upcoming book that I am writing, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in the company of the legendary Cork footballer Graham Canty.
In 2010, he was captain as the Rebels ended a 20-year wait for an All-Ireland. It is of course the pinnacle of any footballer’s career and there is a fear that, the next time a Cork skipper ascends the steps of the Hogan Stand, the wait since 2010 will have been even longer than the one since 1990.
However, Canty said something interesting in that he wouldn’t feel his career was worth any less if Cork hadn’t gone all the way.
Ultimately, it came down to the relationships forged in the dressing room and on the field, the shared experience and strong bond that provided so many memories for the band of loyal supporters.
Similarly, while Mayo’s Lee Keegan – whose retirement was announced on Monday – departs without a Celtic Cross, he does so with the respect of anybody who knows football, knowing that he gave his all for the Green and Red cause.
It’s the journey rather than the destination that ultimately counts and, when Mayo do finally end the wait, the efforts of Keegan and so many others like him will not be forgotten.